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February 28, 2006 > Woman's Sigh, Wolf's Song By Kathryn Madison

Woman's Sigh, Wolf's Song By Kathryn Madison

A Book Review

by Robert A. Garfinkle

I am still shivering from the winter cold after reading San Francisco Bay Area author Kathryn Madison's debut novel about a woman veterinarian, a blue-eyed white timber wolf, and winters in the Canadian Rockies. The author skillfully intertwines the lives of the veterinarian and the wolf into a powerful page-turner. Alexandra Verazzano, the contemporary human co-protagonist, has a successful veterinary practice in Seattle with a specialty of taking care of large dogs. Her world begins to crumble when she returns home a day early from a trip and finds her wealthy lawyer husband, Stephen, bedded down with his secretary in the master bed of their large house. We see from Alex's point of view her reaction to this devastating situation.

As this opening part of the story is unfolding, the author has interspersed the birth of White-cub, the canine protagonist, and his littermates in the wilds of Alberta, Canada. White-cub is the largest pup of the litter and we see how he develops and interplays with the other members of the pack. White-cub becomes attached to the alpha male and learns the hunting and survival skills he will need to depend upon later.

Alex is raked over the divorce coals by Stephen. He keeps the house, marries his secretary, and closes Alex's veterinary clinic. He paid for it and does not want her to get any additional joy from it. Stephen does allow her to keep her Mustang Viento. Alone, broke, and needing to start her life over, Alex begins her search for her psychological and physical recovery. In the meantime, the wolf pack faces the destruction of the leaders of the pack at the hands of poachers and must learn how to keep the survivors alive. Alex is offered the chance to do an environmental research project in the Canadian Rockies by one of her college classmates. She decides to take the job as a way of getting away from Seattle and hopefully find a way out of her internal fight to get over her failed marriage and the loss of the clinic. She will have to live alone in a forestry service cabin and takes Viento along. Lightening strike fires begin to rage in a nearby valley and Alex is recruited to help at the fire base camp. She helps to provide medical attention to a severely burned firefighter.

Over the mountain range, White-cub and his pack mates try to flee the fire, but are trapped by smoke and flame. White-cub is severely burned, but wracked with pain and growing weaker by the minute, he survives by falling down in the stream. After the fire is out, Alex rides Viento through the burn area and is shocked by the destruction to the wildlife. She comes across the near dead large white wolf. At this major turning point in the story, the lives of woman and beast become intertwined when Alex takes the wolf back to the cabin to treat his wounds. For the first time in months, her veterinary instincts take over and she begins to nurse the wild animal back to health. From the perspectives of both protagonists, the author shows us how the human and animal jointly develop their own courage to survive. Alex must keep from becoming too attached to the wolf that she names Survivor, because she knows that he must return to the wild as a wild animal and not be allowed to become dependant on humans.

I hate this book, because it kept me up late reading page after page, thereby keeping me from completing other tasks. I really don't hate this book, but it is a real page-turner with conflict, tension, and 'what is going to happen next' on every page. Despite a few minor first novel flaws, Kathryn Madison has written a book that you should put on your reading list and actually sit down and read. You will come away with a different perspective on wolves and their place in the environment.

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